I’ve always thought of myself as brave—not afraid to try new things or meet new people, not afraid of making a major life change.
But then my husband died, and part of my audacity died with him. It was more comfortable staying home or writing for long, uninterrupted hours in a coffee shop.
And so I invented brave-making campaigns that motivated me to try new things and new places. Stand-up paddle-boarding lessons in Puerto Rico. An Alaskan cruise by myself. A flight across the pond to hike in the Swiss Alps.
And then three years into widowhood, a whisper of an idea filled my heart: Maybe you could date and get married again.
I dated a little, which was fun until it wasn’t fun. And so I hung up my dating shoes.
Many of you will know that God ignored my decision to never date again. He arranged an interview with a man who is the co-designer, builder, and one of the drivers for the shower truck that serves the homeless in our community. Dan.
After the interview, Dan and I talked long until the nighttime painted the coffee shop windows dark. Our conversations continued over Chai tea, along hiking trails, and through soft powder on snowshoes.
Dan was scheduled to travel to Mexico with a friend, distributing textbooks and medicine and doing repairs. And I settled into a remote log cabin on a couple thousand acres to work on a book.
During that time, I came to realize how much this man meant to me. Which scared me. Because we were supposed to be building a friendship.
Friendship-building isn’t scary. But anything beyond that starts getting scary.
But as I followed the Jeep tracks and the elk trails beneath those high, snow-covered Idaho hills, a whispered question prodded me: “What are you afraid of?”
I hadn’t recognized that my “good reasons” for staying single was really fear. Because I’m the brave girl, remember?
Stepping into new territory is risky. What if we’re rejected, or our ideas are rejected? What if we have to give up too much? What if it doesn’t work out?
We don’t know what we don’t know about …
… parenting foster kids
… earning a later-in-life degree
… establishing a non-profit
… offering respite care for the families of Alzheimer’s patients
… opening that cute little yarn-and-tea shop
… coaching middle-schoolers
What if we’re no good at this? What if we can’t raise enough funds? What if we’re too old?
Walking the trails on that far-flung land, I spoke my fears out loud because no one but God and the tall grasses and the geese landing on the pond could hear.
And voicing them helped me see how ridiculous they were. Acknowledging that we’re afraid and what we’re afraid of causes fear to lose significant power over us.
Melissa Nyveld said this:
If I were fearless for a day, I would kiss the boy, hug my friends, speak honestly about past wrongdoings, compliment strangers, appreciate my elders, engage in wonder with my youngsters, and share myself in such a way that when my time is up I’d be proud of whatever fearless legacy I’d leave behind.
The world needs us to be fearless. The world needs us to open our homes and our hearts and our resources to the orphan, the bereaved, the single working mom, the homeless, the elderly, the lonely, the disabled, the marginalized. To our students and clients and patients.
Sydney Dorr asks an important question:
What is Jesus inviting you into this year? You don’t have to know every step, just take his hand and walk onto the dance floor.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
I resonate completely with this post Marlys. You put words together in ways that speak to hearts. Brave is wonderful.
I echo your words, Maxine: “Brave is wonderful.” Thank you.
Ann Peachman Stewart
I love your blog, but this one touched the core of my being. I’ve struggled with fear all my life, and in my 40s I realized it was shrinking my world and affecting all my relationships, including my children and my husband. I decided to make a change, and one Sunday in church God whispered to me that He was giving me a new name called Courage. I thought that was funny, given who He was talking to. My husband also died, I remarried and he left me for another woman. So courage has been beyond difficult at times, but He is always there, gently encouraging me. I still struggle with fear, but making courageous choices over and over changes you, and fear loses its power.
Oh, Ann, after hearing your story, I can understand how courage has been beyond difficult for you at times. But for God and continued choices to be courageous. “I still struggle with fear, but making courageous choices over and over changes you, and fear loses its power.” Beautifully said. Thank you.
Nancy E Whitlatch
Another home run for me Marlys. I have learned, when I leave it to God he will eventually lead me down the right path. Being separated from my family during the pandemic has given me courage. Things are brighter in many ways. God sometimes goes in a huge round about way to get us where we need to be. ????
I like how you said this, Nancy: “… when I leave it to God he will eventually lead me down the right path.” Thank you!